The Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, has failed to keep his promise to release daily COVID-19 expenditure.
A check on the Open Treasury portal where the AGF’s office vowed to publish inflows and outflows from COVID-19 donations showed that only one report was released on May 6, one day after the guidelines were published.
Idris appended his signature to a framework for all departments to adopt in reporting their cash requests, the number of monies released and the total spent.
Civic Media Lab observed that the May report detailed inflows of over N697m in donations as of April 30 but recorded no outflows.
The framework, which was designed to ‘bridge the trust gap’ between the federal government and citizens, has been breached by the failure of Mr Idris’s office to meet some of its directives.
In the transparency section of the framework, the Accountant-General said, “The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation shall publish a daily treasury statement for COVID-19 Fund outlining all the inflows into the Fund and all the outflows. The inflow information shall indicate the source of the funds while the outflow information shall indicate the MDA responsible for each payment out of the Fund.”
At the time of writing this piece, only one report published on May 6, was available on the Open Treasury website.
The Accountant-General committed to publishing the daily COVID-19 spending plans on the ‘Open Treasury Portal (www.opentreasury.gov.ng) not later than one week’ following any transaction made from the funds.
The guidelines published by the accountant-general added, “Also, each MDA shall publish a detailed report of its activities relating to COVID-19 fund on its website at the end of every week.”
CML did not find any expenditure details on the websites of the ministry of health or the NCDC.
Aside from the daily reports, the accountant-General said, “The Monthly Budget Performance Report for the COVID-19 Fund shall be published on the Open Treasury Portal not later than 14 days following the end of the month.” Ten days after, such a report has yet to be uploaded on the site.
The Office of the AGF, which is under the Ministry of Finance, said any department that failed to publish “timely report of COVID-19 activities in the prescribed format and at the stipulated intervals or to respond to FOI request would constitute early warning signs of mismanagement and shall be deemed as a contravention of this guideline.”
Convener of the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), Olarenwaju Suraju, said the Accountant-General might have contravened his guidelines. Suraju said the COVID-19 donations framework would have helped Nigerians track not only outflows but which of the companies and individuals that made promises are fulfilling them.
He noted that the entities which made pledges did so, expecting that their tax obligations would be reduced at the end of the year.
“Part of the directive from the Accountant-General says MDAs that fail to release their reports within the specified period or respond to FoI requests from the public, are indicating that there is something to hide,” Suraju said. “It is almost clear if nothing has been published since May till now, there are things to hide, not only by the MDAs but by the office of the Accountant-General also.”
He said the federal government must follow up with companies that made COVID-19 pledges since they would most likely deduct such promises from their tax portfolio at the year’s end.
“Many of the companies have not delivered on their promises. Quite a number of them have used that public attention and some of them have either reneged or have yet to meet their promises. Many of those promises are not free, quite a number of them are using tax reliefs to cover up for the donations,” he said.
MDAs in Nigeria have a history of poor accounting and auditing. This antecedence is reflected in the non-availability of the country’s 2018 audit report in 2020.
In the 2016 audit report, the Auditor-General said 160 MDAs failed to submit their books. With no law compelling them to do so, the number increased to 265 in 2017.
The Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, said the accounts of agencies that decide to turn in their cash flow, were riddled with discrepancies. It is this precedence that made civil society advocates pass the COVID-19 framework as another ‘empty promise’ made in response to public pressure.